Last year, a record 63.1% of adults in the U.S. were either overweight or obese. According to KidsHealth.org, the percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate, with 1 out of 3 kids now considered overweight or obese. This translates to over $190 billion in medical expenditures each year. That’s a big price to pay for exercising too little and eating too much.
According to the CDC, 60 percent, or well over half, of Americans are not regularly active. Below are a few suggestions to get fit, even if you are a parent who juggles multiple responsibilities like work, housecleaning, cooking, and taking care of kids and dogs.
1. Take a hike – Boise has an endless collection of trails. Austin has the Town Lake Hike, Nashville has Percy Warner Park, Seattle has Discovery Park (and others), Boston has the Charles River and LA has miles of trails along the beach. Even if your city isn’t especially scenic, it’s still enjoyable to soak up sunshine and breath fresh air. If one of your wee ones haven’t learned to walk yet, child carriers like the one pictured below can help out.
2. Walk to school or daycare – I realize this isn’t a practical suggestion for everyone. But if your school or childcare facility is a mile away or less, you only have the weather to blame. Take the dogs along as well, and everyone will be happy and fit.
If your child isn’t thrilled with walking, play games along the way like hide and seek. Challenge your little ones to a race. Or listen to music and dance a little.
3. Bike to dinner, movies and grocery stores – Maybe your city isn’t the best for cycling; but with the green movement on the rise, hopefully it will be soon. Google has a map feature includes bike routes for 150 U.S. cities, so this may help bring about more designated bike lanes. Kids and parents alike can run errands and commute – all while getting more fit. If your children aren’t old enough for biking independently, there are other toys and gadgets to help you out, like the ones pictured below.
4. Visit a city park – The total area covered by urban parkland in the United States exceeds one million acres, so the least we can do is use them! While the kids climb, swing, slide and scream, parents can read a book or even swing a racket if tennis courts are nearby.
5. Participate in sports – Though soccer is the fastest growing team sport for girls and boys in America, there are a myriad of choice available to kids today, including baseball, swimming, ballet, snow skiing, skateboarding, mountain biking, basketball and more. If money is an issue, look for city-sponsored lessons and events. The YMCA also has a number of wonderful, cost-effective sport camps during the summer.
6. Keep it fun – Would you want to play basketball if you had no hand/eye coordination? Or be a gymnast if you had no balance? Why should children be any different? If your kids find a sport too challenging or frustrating, they’ll be far less motivated to keep at it. As you discover your kid’s athletic strengths and weaknesses, try to find activities which align with their abilities and interests.
7. Plant seeds – Last year, Luke helped me plant our garden, pick weeds and select the ripe vegetables. Not only did he burn some energy in the process, but he ate more vegetables, too.
8. Limit TV time – Recent research has demonstrated a correlation between TV viewing and blood pressure spikes. In fact, watching TV has more negative health effects than other sedentary activities, because kids tend to eat junk food while they are watching. Restrict it altogether if you wish, but moderation can go a long way in developing good habits for the long haul.
9. Clean up – Not only do home chores help Mom and Dad, but it keeps little ones busy, too. If they need a little nudging, try a chart system and reward the for their efforts.
10. Set a good example – If you have little ones in the house, try pushing them in a baby jogger, even if you prefer to walk. As per #3 above, ride bikes. Play tennis, or find any activity you love and stick with it. If your little ones lay witness to your enthusiasm over fitness, then they’ll be apt to do the same.
Parents influence their children’s behavior in a number of ways, from words they speak to beverages they drink.**
So in the words of Michele Obama, let’s move! And raise a healthier generation of children.
*The Trust for Public Land
**Livestrong.com and msnbc